Social media is not all fun and games

The Age online has published an article entitled Social media rush as Victorian bushfires rage. It describes what has been evident during the recent and ongoing bushfires in Victoria to those using social media.

As the worst bushfires in Australia’s history raged across Victoria, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook lit up with condolences and horrific first-hand accounts, while many used innovative online mapping tools to assess the risk of the fires reaching their own homes.

Unaffected by the bushfires but geographically close to areas such as King Lake, and knowing people who live there, I found that social media sites were more current and informative than most other news sources, apart from the ABC radio broadcasts. Social media became the new journalism, providing current and detailed information, but also communication to the people.

Mainstream news outlets, battling to provide comprehensive coverage of the tragedy, have incorporated accounts published on the social networking sites extensively in their reports.

Using online social media to spread vital information and personal stories is becoming increasingly commonplace in times of crisis, but this may be the first time the social networking sites have been used extensively during an Australian disaster.

Google provided a map updated in real-time with information about the number, type and size of fires in a particular location.


NASA provided satellite images of the fires:


Personally, I found Twitter’s ‘bushfires’ – tagged tweets a mix of informative and disturbing, bringing up real-time information in the most personal way, mixing facts with personal appeals for lost family. The steady Twitter stream of contributions from people all over provided communication in a way that no other media could match.

Interesting to observe that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also communicate via Twitter.


For me, the most striking aspect of this form of social media is the human element. The article mentions the twitter account of a CFA volunteer, cfafirefighter . Follow this and you follow the man, his movements, his thoughts and his feelings.


Flickr also demonstrates a platform for communication, a place for people to share images of the fires, for example, the group Victorian bushfires 2009


There is a very large number of photos here, and this is only one of the groups. Compare this to the few images chosen for the front page of the newspaper articles.

uploaded to Flickr by Monkeybizness February 9 2009

uploaded to Flickr by Hickey/Scott February 8 2009

Facebook groups have sprung up too. Although it may seem to be a futile exercise joining such a group since it doesn’t necessarily lead to action, the opportunity for solidarity online may just be the impetus for worthwhile deeds.



The Facebook group provides links to important numbers and websites.


Wildlife Rescue –

Gippsland Emergency Relief
Fund –

CFA bushfire hotline – 1800 240 667,

State Emergency Service – 132 500

State Inquiries Centre – 1800 727 077

Other information includes different ways to donate money, for example:
Myer will match dollar-for-dollar total customer contributions to the Appeal up to $500,000. The goal – to raise $1 million for the recovery effort.

The discussion board is testimony to many a community’s empathy, willingness to help and grief:

Tarita Conza wrote
at 8:35pm
R.I.P Raye Wynette (Lane) Carter 13/05/1940 – 07/02/2009
CFA Volunter, Great grandmother of Kyla Lawrence, loving Nan of Aaron Lawrence & special friend of Tarita Conza. Tragically taken too soon! trying to save your cherished goats. You will be sadly missed but greatly remembered, Love always and forever.
So, you thought that social media was just fun and games?
Thanks to Sue Tapp for the link on Twitter to the online article.
Sue has just informed me of the ABC bushfires emergency blog.

14 thoughts on “Social media is not all fun and games”

  1. Thanks for this interesting and relevant post. This human catastrophe has brought back the notion of community in many ways- particularly social media networks. I also think that the television media has added to this new spirit of connectivity due to their own sence of personal loss. I’ve seen the facebook groups but agree that they serve as personal gratification rather than active resolutions. Friends have called for organised donations though, despite hearing that material goods are not needed as much as cash donations. Offering specific services and volunteering to help meet people’s ranging needs seems more likely to be of benefit.

  2. You’ve made some important points here. In terms of education, it’s clear that technology serves the people and promotes, as you say, connectivity and community.

  3. I also want to say this is very well researched and constructed – several hours of ‘work’, no doubt. I am amazed that these new technologies has brought us so close together despite being on the other side of the world.

  4. Fabulous post! Very sad to read about this going on in the land of my birth (Park Orchards now seems a different planet to my home in Hong Kong!)
    The thing I love best about your post is the title. Great to show some school admins here who still think that tools like Twitter have no educational purpose.
    Keep up the great writing!

  5. Hi Paul C., good to see you again. Maybe not several hours but a driven post fuelled by the conviction that social media provided the best avenues for coverage and communication, but, above all, for the human side.
    I’ll be over to see what you’ve been writing soon; having ongoing laptop issues and about to lose my laptop for a couple of days.

  6. Thanks for your comments, Paul M. You’re a long way from home! I visited your blog and bookmarked it. Amongst your links I revisited ‘6 interesting ways to use twitter in the classroom’. Thanks, that may warrant a post so that I can unpack it.

  7. Hi Hayden! When are you going to transfer that wonderful knowledge and insight onto a sharing platform? I have a special spot for your blog-to-be. See you soon.

  8. Hi Tania, this is excellent. Thanks for pointing it out to me. I’m sure will come a time when I will use it my work. For a long time I’ve been trying to convince people to look for the opportunities social networking presents, rather than focusing on the isolated negative incidents often highlighted in the media. I wish I could find the time and discipline to blog as effectively as you are doing.

  9. Thanks, Garry, and you’re not the only one wanting the shift. No wonder you don’t have time; you must be very busy at school. It’s all good. Our school has recently joined a Powerful Learning Practice program run by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and that’s been such a wonderful learning experience. I mentioned it too late to IGS, and you weren’t in a position to join. Our project will focus on creating a NING, a network that promotes collaboration and makes teaching and learning transparent. We hope that this will demystify some of the technology tools and social media, and bring people on board. Thanks for dropping by.

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